Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : July 2005

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New President Strong Advocate of MSBA
~Conroy pledges response to "over the line" attacks on lawyers~

By Janet Stidman Eveleth

J. Michael Conroy, Jr.

J. Michael Conroy, Jr.
MSBA President

“MSBA is committed to doing the right thing,” proclaimed J. Michael Conroy, Jr., as he assumed the office of President of the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) on June 18, 2005, during the Association’s Annual Meeting in Ocean City. “If we are in the minority, so be it. We often end up later being the majority.” MSBA’s new leader pledged the continuation of MSBA’s efforts to support and improve the foundation that makes Maryland’s legal profession so important and exciting.

A partner in the Montgomery County law firm of Pasternak & Fidis, P.C., Conroy is known as a champion of MSBA and an effective leader in Maryland’s legal community. He will serve a 12-month term and will be joined by newly-elected officers: President-Elect Edward J. Gilliss, a partner in the Baltimore County law firm of Royston, Mueller, McLean & Reid, LLP; Secretary Alison L. Asti, Executive Director of the Maryland Stadium Authority; and Treasurer John Patrick Kudel, a solo practitioner in Rockville and Of Counsel to the Rockville-based law firm of Karp, Frosh, Lapidus, Wigodsky & Norwind.

Addressing the audience of judges, attorneys and colleagues gathered at MSBA’s Business Meeting as he was installed as President, Conroy declared, “MSBA is among the very best in a top profession. Maryland is blessed with an excellent judiciary, a fine legislature and an outstanding executive branch. To be sure, there is room for improvement everywhere, but we are in a wonderful profession in a wonderful state and we will take a back seat to no one.”

Responding to “Over the Line” Attacks
MSBA’s President will be a strong advocate for MSBA, Maryland lawyers and the legal profession. One of Conroy’s top priorities is to address “over the line” attacks on lawyers and judges. “We will pursue our mission, including efforts to improve the legal system,” he stated, “and take on any group that unfairly attempts to impede our efforts on behalf of our members and the public. We are not objecting to opinions that every citizen is entitled to express. We are objecting to material misstatements of fact. False representations will be defeated with accurate and concise facts.”

To address “over the line” attacks, Conroy has created a special Immediate Response Committee so MSBA is prepared to move quickly, take on those who materially misstate facts, frame important issues and craft an immediate and effective response addressing the misstatements and exposing the true facts. Chaired by Thomas D. Murphy, this new Committee consists of two members from each county and Baltimore City and reflects a balanced and diverse group of lawyers. Conroy has charged this group with the task of monitoring attacks on lawyers, the legal profession and the Judiciary.

“If a Committee member, a lawyer or a citizen reports an attack, and a Committee member believes it merits a response, that member will send a draft by electronic mail to the entire committee,” Conroy explains. “If approved by a majority of a quorum of MSBA’s Immediate Response Committee, it will go to MSBA’s Executive Committee, and if approved by a majority of a quorum of the Executive Committee, it will be signed and published, hopefully within 72 hours.”

The overall goal of this initiative is to return communications to legitimate debate and foster improved communication to the benefit of the legal profession, other professions or groups and the public in general. “If we do not wish others to generalize about us, we must set the example,” MSBA’s President asserted. “We will not generalize about the press, about insurance companies, politicians or anyone else.”

“We will point out false facts and we will highlight accurate facts to frame a debate. We must take the high road,” Conroy stressed. “But we will be firm, tough and direct, too. Going forward, if people want to attack us with false statements of fact, we will tee it up and deal with them.”

Other Initiatives
In addition to setting the record straight about lawyers, Conroy wants to protect the public from the growing problem of the unauthorized practice of law and unwarranted entries into the legal profession by non-lawyers. To this end, he has established a new MSBA Public Protection Committee, which will be chaired by Edwin G. Fee, Jr.

The Public Protection Committee will “lead the effort to stop scam artists from taking advantage of the elderly, poor and disadvantaged by practicing law without a license,” reported Conroy. “It will coordinate efforts with the Attorney Grievance Commission, the State’s Attorney’s Offices in various counties and Baltimore City, and with the Attorney General’s Office.”

Under Conroy’s leadership, MSBA will also enhance its “information stream” to ensure information is channeled to the Association’s leadership at all levels in a timely fashion. The President has appointed Board of Governor liaisons to all specialty and local bar associations so that members are “aware of the many available MSBA services as well as the many beneficial things the MSBA is doing for them.”

Further, Conroy announced, “MSBA will publish the composition of our Sections and how one can get elected to a Section Council. We will, at the same time, preserve and support the autonomy, energy and expertise of our Sections. Our members deserve the strength generated by the maximum collaboration between our super Sections, excellent Committees and our energetic general membership.”

The new President also plans to invigorate MSBA’s Rules of Practice Committee and has appointed Paul Ethridge as Chair. “This important committee, which meets and liaisons with the Maryland Rules Committee chaired by Chief Judge Joseph Murphy, will dovetail with our increased involvement in fashioning legislation to benefit our members and the legal system.”

Conroy will also explore the possibility of providing access to free legal research for all MSBA members and increasing the efficacy and breadth of MSBA’s Lawyers Assistance Program. “We will liaison with the lawyer assistance program and the Attorney Grievance Commission to try to offer more. Providing accounting assistance when a member is overwhelmed by tax procedures might be a good example.”

Conclusion
As MSBA’s new President concluded his installation remarks, he promised, “We will advocate for our members in every way we can to improve the quality and enjoyment of their practice of law. We have a great Bar Association, in a great profession, in a great state, in the best country in the world. I would like to finish my year with MSBA and the legal profession just a little bit better. Thank you for this high honor of serving as your President.”

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: July, 2005

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